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Spice & Wolf Vol. #20 Light Novel Review

4 min read

The different seasons in Nyohhira.

Creative Staff
Story: Isuna Hasekura
Art: Keito Koume
Translation/Adaptation: Jasmine Bernhardt

What They Say
After a short summer, lively with guests, the bathhouse Spice & Wolf greets the momentary calm that is autumn. The unusually enthusiastic Holo and an exasperated Lawrence want to have their fill of what the mountain-bound Nyohhira has to offer in autumn. After a walk in the mountains the two return to the bathhouse with a basket-full of goodies, and there is a crowd of people at the entrance. “I do not quite know what it might be, but it smells of many beasts.” The reason these sudden, out-of-season guests came to bathhouse Spice & Wolf is-!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This twentieth volume of the Spice and Wolf series is subtitled Spring Log III, but all four seasons are represented in the book’s five short stories. In addition to showing readers the rhythms of the hot springs village throughout the year, Hasekura-sensei also brings back some old characters in this installment.

The first story “What Falls in the Spring and Wolf” does actually take place in the spring. This is a comical tale involving the annual dilemma of Holo shedding winter fur and another fur-related problem connected to Luward, the commander of the Miyuri Mercenary Company. I never associated animal pheromones with fur before so it took me a while to grasp Luward’s predicament (and even now, I’m not sure what trusty assistant Moizi was doing to handle the situation while Luward went for help). However, the story is a fun way for Luward to return to the story, albeit briefly.

Then “The White Hound and Wolf” goes back a couple years to present a glimpse of the bathhouse’s busy winter season before Myuri left home. The narrator is a church inquisitor investigating rumors about Nyohhira’s newest establishment, and he is predictably suspicious and judgemental. However, he does provide an outsider’s view of the hot springs village and winds up exemplifying how Spice and Wolf charms even the most difficult guest.

After the stranger’s perspective, we get an intimate nighttime moment between the bathhouse owners in “Caramel Days and Wolf.” Not a whole lot of action takes place in this short story, but it is an entertaining character study. Those curious about the outcome of the journal project Lawrence proposed in the previous volume will see some of the results, and Lawrence also gets to show how much better he’s gotten at understanding and handling his wily wife.

Next is “Blue Dreams and Wolf,” the volume’s summertime tale and longest story. The tale starts off with a money related problem—namely a regional coin shortage—and takes on a religious and political bent when the remains of a retainer of a long-forgotten lord are discovered in a cave outside Nyohhira. These are all standard elements of earlier Spice and Wolf adventures, and I anticipated the ex-merchant and wolf to devise a tidy solution to solve everything, just like they did in the past. To my surprise, the story concludes with only a partial resolution to their problems. Instead, however, we get to witness Holo in an unusually vulnerable moment, which offers a different sort of satisfaction.

Finally, “Harvest Autumn and Wolf” has Holo and Lawrence abruptly receiving unusual offseason guests. At first, the story seems as if it will center around the novelty of entertaining a group made up entirely of non-humans like Holo. However, when the guests start telling their versions of Lawrence and Holo’s journey to the north, the focus shifts to the legacy the pair have created. And apparently, that legacy isn’t done. The way the story ends strongly hints that a new road trip is in store for Lawrence and Holo.

By the way, I’ve noticed that the descriptions of Holo’s physical form are somewhat inconsistent in this installment. In places, she’s described as looking like a bride of fourteen or fifteen, which is how I’ve always pictured her. Other places say she resembles a child “around the age of ten.” Perhaps something is lost in the translation, but the latter descriptions jolt me out of the story and make me wonder how Holo can get away with passing herself off as Lawrence’s wife even without the no-aging aspect.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, world map, seven black-and-white illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary
If you’ve wondered what life is like throughout the year in Lawrence and Holo’s hot springs village, these five standalone stories paint a pretty good picture. The content ranges from an outsider’s first impression of the Spice and Wolf bathhouse to Lawrence’s umpteenth year of dealing with Holo’s shedding tail. There’s no central theme that ties these stories together, but we do get to see how Lawrence and Holo’s matured relationship handles both the light- and heavy-hearted moments.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B-

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: October 30th, 2018
MSRP: $14.00

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